I previously wrote a review On the Incarnation by Athanasius (c. 297-373). Well, I read the book again and wrote another review that I thought I’d share with you here. Hopefully this second review, which covers a lot of the same things as the first one, has greater insight and clarity. Enjoy!
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In his work, On the Incarnation, Athanasius seeks to present “a brief statement of the faith of Christ and of the manifestation of His Godhead to us” (IX.56). Acknowledging that “such and so many are the Savior’s achievements that follow from His incarnation” (X.54) such that one is unable to present them satisfactorily, he nonetheless determines to set forth his understanding of “why it is that the Word of the Father . . . has been made manifest in bodily form” (I.1); his answer in short: “for the salvation of us men” (I.1). What follows is less a systematic doctrinal treatise and more an explanation and defense of the incarnation against its 4th century misconceptions and critiques.
Athanasius begins his account with creation and the fall. Of all His creatures, God bestowed upon mankind a special grace, the Image of God. For Athanasius this Image means a sharing in the divine being (“though in a limited degree”; I.3; III.11) and a unique incorruptibility because of this intimate knowledge of and union with the Incorruptible One (I.4-5; II.6-7; III.13). In such a state, man would have continued forever (I.3). But by “turning from eternal things to things corruptible” man embraced corruption—death—by forsaking union with the eternal (I.5; cf. I.4). Such is the setting for “the divine dilemma and its solution in the incarnation” (II).